Part III – Lend Me a Hand.

new glasses
My new specs. Stylin’!

My eyesight is poor; I have one myopic (near-sighted) and one hyperopic (far-sighted) eye.  I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 7 years old, and bifocals since age 35.  Nobody makes fun of me for wearing glasses, nor should they; it is nothing to be embarrassed about.  Before I had my hips replaced, I used a cane to get around.  Nobody made fun of me for that, either; they recognized that I had a need for it, and that was that.  No shame necessary.

Yes, that's me.  That zipper is on my jeans.  ;-)
yes, that’s me.

But because of the stigma attached to hearing loss, people won’t admit they need help.  Often the perception is that wearing a hearing aid makes you appear less intelligent.  Hearing aids are assumed to be for old or disabled people, and that stigma is a very real reason that a lot of hearing loss goes undiagnosed and untreated.  It didn’t help that older hearing devices were large and bulky; people did not want to wear them because they were ugly and awkward. 

The irony is, though, that untreated hearing loss is far more noticeable than today’s hearing devices.  Chances are good that you have chatted with a person wearing hearing instruments and never noticed them.  On the other hand, constantly asking someone to repeat what they said, turning the volume up on the radio and TV, and speaking loudly are tell-tale signs of hearing loss. 

Sufferers struggle on a daily basis to hear and understand their environment; it can be exhausting and socially isolating.  The hearing-impaired person feels frustrated, angry, defeated, embarrassed and ridiculed.  Eventually, many drop out of life, in a way.  They stop trying and withdraw, because that is easier.  As for me, I resigned myself to a lifetime of permanent hearing loss.

A dear friend of mine has a rare gene mutation that causes, among other things, eventual deafness.  She also attends a lot of concerts and shows, and had worked for many years in an industrial environment.  She had been having difficulty when more than one person was talking or where background noise like television would mask the softer sounds of conversation, just like me. She got hearing aids, and she told me she loved them. 

Even after she told me that, I rationalized that her case was different, and my hearing loss was untreatable, because that’s what I had been told as a child.  It wasn’t until Mr. Stuck talked candidly to me about my hearing – telling me that even my sons and my friends were noticing that it was getting worse – that I agreed to go see an audiologist again.  I warned the Mr. that it would probably be a waste of time, but I would go.

Continued in Part IV...

photo credit Ephemeral Scraps

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Aging like a fine wine. ;-)

3 thoughts on “Part III – Lend Me a Hand.”

  1. My uncle was deaf, and my mom said his hearing loss was caused by a very high fever he had as a small child. He even went to a school for the deaf. I was never proficient at sign language, but I could spell, and could communicate with him if he would sign slowly. When he would wear his hearing aids, he could communicate much better, but he didn’t get his until much later in life, and he didn’t like them, so he didn’t wear them much. I can’t imagine what you’re going through, coming to terms with this. So glad you are sharing!! 🙂

    1. Thank you. I understand that when I was a baby, I screamed nonstop for a long time. My parents told me they’d walk the floor with me for hours on end. My sister took turns at it, as well. I don’t know if that is related to my hearing or not, but I suspect there might be some connection.
      I don’t know ASL aside from the few signs I remember from taking the class many years ago. I can spell, but not quickly or proficiently. I taught myself some lipreading as a matter of necessity, but I’m not that great. I can only imagine how uncomfortable the earlier hearing devices were. Even with these, my ears have to get used to them; they tend to itch after awhile. But what a difference it is for me to be able to carry on a conversation in a group of people, like I did this morning on the bus at work. So much I’ve missed…but I’m determined to catch up!

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